Why do we eat junk food?

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biscuits lib

REUTERS

I'd really like to push for this debate to be opened up. Unlike any packets of biscuits. Which must not, under any circumstances, be opened up anywhere near me.

London - Will no one speak up for junk food? I guess not. Even if they tried to, we might not be able to hear them because all the excess face fat around their mouth would get in the way. No one healthy and attractive ever defends excessive eating, do they? Probably because: (a) they don't do it; and (b) even if they did do it, we wouldn't believe them.

Anyway. The latest salvo is that junk food causes Alzheimer's. A report in New Scientist explains that some experts are even going so far as to rename the disease “Type 3 diabetes”. This is a huge story because of the recent history of Type 2 diabetes, the incidence of which has trebled in the past 30 years. The implications for Type 3 are obvious. It is looking as if this might be a problem of our own making and one which could escalate quickly.

Sadly, now there's even less justification for poor food choices. And yet we continue to make them. Unfortunately, I cannot become the ambassador the junk food industry is crying out for as my own body is a wheezing, groaning apologia for its effects. Instead, though, I'd really like to push for this debate to be opened up. Unlike any packets of biscuits. Which must not, under any circumstances, be opened up anywhere near me.

Because the whole anti-junk movement has got stuck. We're in a Catch 22. Most of us know we should eat better. Yet this does not happen. I'm not saying that from the point of view of someone who just wants any excuse to eat more fried onion rings. Although that would be nice. But the health warnings are having no impact on behaviour. “Look! Now you won't just deteriorate physically, you'll deteriorate mentally, too!” As a motivating statement, it's not going to work.

This is because junk food is a symptom of a much larger problem. It exists only as part of another vast, spreading disease: the pursuit of profit over common sense, the endless expansion of the working day, the elevation of success (whatever that is) over contentment. Ever faster lives, ever bigger debts, ever bigger bellies.

Unless you are a measured, balanced and fiscally buoyant human being (and if you are, please do send me funds and your life philosophy), it's no easy matter to resist the endless tide of quick fixes and cheap meal deals. Not to mention buy-one-get-one-free. Only yesterday I put back two packets of chocolate digestives because I had to acknowledge that not only did I not need two, I did not even need one. And yet my brain was screaming, “This food is virtually free. It would be wrong not to take it.”

If there is scientific evidence that junk food causes Alzheimer's, that's significant and we must act on it.

But let's not forget that junk food consumption exists within a context. And it is the context which is ultimately harming us. Being so busy or stressed that you can't prepare fresh food cannot be much of an insulation against any kind of disease, mental or physical. This is what must change long before any kind of resistance to junk food can kick in.

Meanwhile, if we all get Type 3 diabetes, we can at least enjoy the scant consolation that it is the best kind to have. Because you almost certainly won't know you've got it. Another biscuit, dearie? - The Independent

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